MAY 18, 1950
NEW YORK, Wednesday—One day last winter I was invited to the booth in the Armory at Park Avenue and 34th Street, run by the Police Athletic League here. There I saw the Police Commissioner proudly showing some pictures—the work done by youngsters—youngsters who have become the friends of the policemen in their neighborhoods instead of their enemies.
Not many of us know what the Police Department does to prevent crime. We think of them primarily as protecting us in the city streets, but an equally important part of a policeman's daily routine is the continual lookout for delinquent children—to protect us from future criminals.
Catching a criminal, bringing him before a court and putting him into prison, neither prevents crime nor rehabilitates the criminal. For that reason during the last 20 years the New York City Police Department has worked, through its Police Athletic League and its Juvenile Aid Bureau, intelligently and consistently, to prevent crime. They study the case of every delinquent youngster, find out his particular problem and the factors in his environment which brought about such delinquency. Then they obtain all the assistance they can from the community, the church, the school, social agencies, the recreation agencies, in order to offer the boy or girl a friend instead of an enemy. They try to bring out the good that is in all human beings. They go on the theory that a helping hand may save them much hard work in the future.
The Police Departments throughout the United States and, in fact, throughout the world, have come here to study the work done on this youthful level. It has continued to spread until now you can find somewhat the same pattern of work carried out by police forces in many parts of the world.
PAL, which are the initials ordinarily used for the Police Athletic League, was created by policemen to meet the leisure time needs of young people, for no one knows better than the policeman that it is misdirected play which starts many a youngster in the wrong direction. They have a large staff of trained recreational directors who provide a variety of physical, social and cultural activities to meet the needs and interests of boys and girls from seven to 21 years of age. Last year alone 300,000 children were served, and these are the children who otherwise would be left to their own devices for finding an outlet for the never-ending energy of youth.
These activities are financed by contributions from the community—contributions which are not just a charitable donation but an investment in good citizens for the future. Now that there are other cities carrying out similar programs games are sponsored for the young people's teams, and representatives from Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia and many of the cities in New York State and in New Jersey come to compete and form close links both on the policeman's level, as the sponsors, and on the youngster's level.
It is always interesting to me to see how much over the years these ideas have changed. There was a time when I well remember how little groups of boys, whether they were playing hop-scotch or craps, would post a small boy to watch for the cop and so warn them of their enemy's approach. That may still happen, but it happens less often. Today the cop, when he sees a group of idle boys, suggests some other game and tells them where they can go for more interesting recreation. That does the trick, so don't forget your subscription or your membership in the Police Athletic League!